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Have we played into Bin Laden's hands?

Many of our readers spent the 9/11 anniversary weekend debating Ted Koppel's suggestion that the continued commitment of U.S. lives and resources to Afghanistan and Iraq represents success "far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned."

Readers either agree or disagree and seem about evenly split in more than 1,200 comments they have filed since Koppel's piece appeared. The questions he raises are worth pondering and, with the usual exceptions from the usual suspects, the discussion is more reasoned and civilized than many that occur on significant national issues.

Koppel writes, "Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. Bin Laden does not deserve that we, even inadvertently, fulfill so many of his unimagined dreams."

Columnist Fareed Zakaria arrives at a similar conclusion this morning, writing, "Bin Laden knew he could never weaken America directly, even if he blew up a dozen buildings or ships. But he could provoke an overreaction by which America weakened itself."

These comments below are in response to the Koppel article.

We'll start with bjacoby1, who wrote, "What Ted says has been pretty obvious for a long time. That it's still a position that no politician is able to take indicates that we will continue to carry out Bin Laden's wishes for quite awhile, driving our deficit up and our public services like education down, becoming as much of a blindfolded theocracy as Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden won his war along time ago; do we have to keep giving him more points?"

But dfooter said, "Yes, as if Koppel knows what would have happened in the absence of these US actions. This is very flabby thinking. It is after all, called asymmetrical warfare. We have to spend far more energy and resources than this type of enemy, and be willing to do it for a long time. In the end, the only measure of success is whether we can sustain it longer than they can. Knock on wood, but so far so good, we have had no major attacks on US soil since 9/11..."

AlexandriaMan wrote, "I am so irritated with these types of articles that are appearing NINE YEARS after the fact! Why didn't Mr. Koppel produce this at the time that they were planning for the wars. Nevertheless, as harsh as this article is, it's spot on."

But JeffDay3 said, "I respect Mr. Koppel's work over the years, but this is not worthy of him. In the end, Mr. Koppel has proposed no real alternative to how we responded. "We shouldn't have done that" is not a useful statement unless you follow it up with a valid alternative..."

jakeyrotten wrote, "I really enjoyed this op-ed. It's nice to know someone in the media has a firm grip on the reality of this current situation. Unlike most of the hacks and hanger-ons in this city (and whom write for the WaPo), Koppel sounds like he really understands how we played right into the enemy's hands..."

AprilF1 said, "The problems with liberals is that they want to be nice to everyone--including deadly enemies... After each Muslim atrocity we are subjected to a series of op-ed articles about how Islam is a religion of peace... Ted wants to sit back, be politically correct, and hope they don't hit us again. Maybe if Obama apologized--they'd like us."

areyousaying wrote, "You can't convince me that the same CIA who can use satellites to read the license plate on my truck and monitor my cell phone calls in the remote mountainous area of Southern Mexico couldn't have found Osama now if they really wanted to. Obama perpetuates Bush's lie. The question is why."

mjrichard said, "We will never get past this kind of thing unless and until we start telling the truth. Afghanistan was a reaction to 9/11. Iraq was not. Clearly the Iraq war was something the Bush administration wanted so badly they could taste it. And they wanted it long before 9/11 ever happened."

dummypants wrote, "ted koppel offers no evidence for his "counter-intuitive" theory. why was this even published?"

janouzpoha asked, "Why does the right wing always insist on assassinating the good faith, character, and intentions of people with whom they disagree? What aspect is it of democracy and free speech that they are afraid of. Mr. Koppel obviously cares a great deal about the direction of the country given the thought put into writing this piece. I would think that a reasonable person could disagree with his point of view without casting him as a terrorist sympathizer."

hambya said, "Koppel makes some fair points, but might do well to spend some time on the murky character of the intelligence information available to us at the time of the Iraqi invasion. And is it really the case that all would be well in Pakistan if we had not escalated across the border in Afghanistan??? There is a lot of hindsight in this piece re situations that seemed so much different to reasonable people at the time."

priceisright wrote, "Spot on... We as a nation need to realize that bin Laden's goal is to inflict as much damage to our nation as posibble. Why else would they attack the financial and military institutions first? Think about it, he set the stage for us to cripple our economy by spending monies on prolonged military campaigns (draining resources)."

But argo asked, "What? Cut and Run, now that democracy is spread (on its back) being caressed by those willing disciples of freedom, now that Success is almost at hand?"

henryw1 said, "This article is wrong on all points. In particular, Bin Laden's aim had nothing to do with hurting the USA but rather a symbol to lead the Islamic world back to his form of Islam. He stated that in his own words at that time. He never expected to do so much damage. The purpose was a 'show' so that 'people will follow a strong horse', namely him. The entire premise of this article is wrong - never mind the sad fact of criticizing history without any idea of what 'might have happened'."

bobbo2 wrote, Is Osama Bin Laden still in hiding? Is his organization on the run? Yes. Keep him running, keep him hiding. Never let him sleep."

bjwtaylor said, "Not only has bin Laden succeeded in making us spend vast quantities of blood and treasure and look like fools, he made us look like cringing cowards. I have been ashamed not of my country, but of our leadership and the sheep who followed them into a paranoid world where gnats are truly to be shot with cannon. The Greatest Generation, who defeated Hitler and Tojo, with courage and resolve and never trepidation, at the same time, at a time when we were not a globe-straddling super-power as we are now, must be truly ashamed of us."

bnevison0 wrote, "We can only hope and pray bin laden is 'running, hiding, living like an animal, etc.' But how do we know he's not living comfortably in Pakistan while being protected around the clock by his supporters?... I hope you're right that bin laden is living in constant fear. Regardless, I strongly suspect that the mind of him and his supporters, they have been victorious..."

We'll close with dbothroydearthlinknet, who said, "I agree, but how do we get out of this mess now. Perhaps we need to develop a "war cabinet" of some of the best brains in the country instead of letting a lot of fast talking politicians run things. They got us into this mess and we need someone to get us out."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  September 13, 2010; 10:12 AM ET
 | Tags: 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Koppel, Osama bin Laden  
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